Hotpress interview


Luster for life

Having moved to Dublin and attempted to conquer his chronic internet addiction, innovative dance producer Lackluster has now set about earning the acclaim of the local electronica cognoscenti.
words: Barry O'Donoghue

He's been releasing beautiful music for 10 years, but unless you've had your ear to the electronic underground, you probably won't have heard Lackluster, aka Esa Juhani Ruoho

Well, it's time to sit up and pay attention, as not only has he just released an excellent new compilation, it's also on an irish label. Quick history lesson then: Esa has released a variety of LPs and singles, but the two of note so far are 'Wrapping' and 'Container' on the defunct De:Focus label.

He's also given us one of the best answers to our admittedly lazy (but in a very self aware way) question on whether the fabled landscapes of cold, icy Finland have influenced his cold, icy music. Off you go Esa: "It's up to journalists to come up with the adjectives - and they always do, and they're always the same - and to look up my country of birth and then play a little game of country-association. Then it's all reindeers this, Arctic that, aurora borealis spinning in the melancholic dust under the icy cold sun while snow melts slowly in endless waves of cold depressive bleak Nordic darkness..." That's us told then.

Although in darkness, Lackluster's music does feel like a product of its environment - and he's not the first artist to posess such a quality. More obviously, there's Royskopp - but more pertinently, there's Biosphere, the Norwegian who reputedly recorded some of his work in a cave. We think.

"There does seem to be an aura of calm emanating from most of Biosphere's work, even if some of it might (to some) be unsettling", offers Esa.

"Perhaps Scandinavia is a place for calm, but it's doubtful. Maybe we just happen to have similar tastes for sounds and sources and a sense of space. A bunch of people like to mention Biosphere in reviews of my stuff, but it's been years since I listened to or hand 'Subtrata'. When I heard it, I loved it and 'got it' - then I moved on. "Speaking of moving on, Esa has since moved to Dublin. And his new record is out on an Irish label, Psychonavigation. Why the move from the delightfully cold, icy climes?

"I found a very special someone, and she happened to live in a large-ish six person apartment, and they were looking for the sixth person to move into a small room," explains Esa. "I wanted to get away from broadband access at my home in Finland. I just wanted to get away from the internet and do tracks."

Slightly worrying. How did the Psychonavigation link come about?

"Keith e-mailed me a few years ago, asking for a track for the Psychokinesis compilation and it kind of moved on from there, with remixes and then a gig in January, and then I moved here February. We compiled the album while I was here."

And it's a delight - an interesting, innovative take and the 'leftfield/electronica' sound that will appeal to fans of Donal Dineen's sadly-extinct Headphones hour. Esa is quite keen to point out how much work went into this project - churned-out house remixes these are not.

"People seem to dismiss it as a kind of compilation, or doubt that I've done anything to the original tracks, but most of the time they've been heavily dismantled and recreated from the original sounds. It's not a case of slapping a beat under a track and letting it play like it would without any alterations, and then calling that a remix."